Thursday, 11 March 2010


It wasn't meant to happen like this. Real Madrid's crazy summer spending spree has propelled them to the top of La Liga but the real point behind buying Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema et al was to finally break their Champions League jinx (six early eliminations in the last six years) and win European football's most prestigious prize, the cherry on the cake being that this year's CL final is scheduled to be played in Real's stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu. In the event though it was in this same stadium last night that their dream came to an end, a 1-1 draw with Lyon meaning that the Merengues once again have failed to advance beyond the first knock-out round. Real were by far the better side in the first half of the game but they failed to capitalize on it. Cristiano Ronaldo's early goal meant the game was tied (Lyon had won the first leg 1-0) and the second half strike from Lyon's Bosnian youngster Miralem Pjanic saw the French side go through on aggregate. I felt Lyon probably deserved the victory. Real were magisterial in the first half but you expect that from a team of their calibre playing in front of their home supporters. What you do not expect is the way they folded after the interval. Apart from Ronaldo who looked dangerous almost every time he had the ball Real seemed unimaginative - it was almost as if they were biding their time and playing for penalties. Lyon started the second half much stronger and fought through right until the end whereas even after Pjanic's strike Madrid seemed unwilling to give it their all. Real Madrid are the richest club in the world and have a team sheet that is simply jaw dropping but as my coach at school used to say: a team of champions can't beat a champion team.

No real surprises in last night's other fixtures except perhaps the magnitude of AC Milan's defeat at the hands of Manchester United. Wayne Rooney who appears to have got his temper problem under control (is this a side-effect of becoming a new father?) has matured into a wonderful player and scored twice last night as the Mancunians obliterated their fellow European heavyweights 4-0 (7-2 on aggregate). Milan won this competition in 2007 but having refused to rebuild their team since then their defeat last night was no surprise. They have too many players the wrong side of 30 and while regular visits to the plastic surgeon can keep their president, Silvio Berlusconi, looking young and shiny (well, shiny at any rate) no such equivalent exists for professional sportsmen.

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